Brother says love triangle was motive for Sabre Springs murders - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Brother says love triangle was motive for Sabre Springs double murder

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Mel Marabante, Valerie Marabante & Bernabe Villamar, Jr. Mel Marabante, Valerie Marabante & Bernabe Villamar, Jr.

By David Gotfredson

SABRE SPRINGS, Calif.  (CBS8) -- Valerie Marabante had just eight days to live when her estranged husband typed out a three-page letter to say "goodbye for the last and final time." Mel Marabante, 41, wrote that his Feb. 12 letter was "a form of obituary… so I can move on." Apparently, he could not move on.

Early Sunday morning, the husband who just days earlier had written, "I forgive you Val," found himself sneaking through the muddy soil of his estranged wife's backyard at 3 a.m. with a loaded pistol, according to Mel's brother, Phillip Marabante.

During a two-hour interview, the Murrieta resident told News 8 his brother confessed to the murders of his wife Valerie, 23, and her companion Bernabe Villamar, 26, inside her Sabre Springs apartment on Feb. 20.

Phillip said his brother Mel spotted the couple through a back-door window embracing inside the apartment, right before he broke through the glass and started shooting.

"When he went there that morning he saw them on the couch, kissing and hugging on the sofa," Phillip said. "All my brother wanted was the truth and he had to find out the truth this way."

Valerie died from a gunshot wound to the head and Bernabe died from gunshots to the head and neck, the County Medical Examiner concluded. Investigators put the time of death at 3:14 a.m.

Mel Marabante had been living at his brother's home in Murrieta since he separated from his wife and moved out of their Sabre Springs apartment one day before Valentine's Day. Riverside County family court records show Valerie Marabante had filed for divorce Feb. 3 citing irreconcilable differences.

Shortly after the murders, Mel Marabante returned to his brother's house, according to Phillip, who observed his brother at 4 a.m. walking through the house in pajamas. "He kissed his (sleeping) kids and said, ‘Love ya bro,'" to Phillip who had arisen to let the dog out.

Phillip also recalled seeing Mel take a dose of nighttime cold medication.

Later that morning, around 7 a.m., Phillip awoke again to find his brother in a haze and nearly incoherent.

Mel said, "I did something stupid," and then confessed to the details of the murders, Phillip recalled.

Phillip believed his brother had attempted suicide by mixing the cold medication with sleeping pills and prescription antidepressant medication Mel had been taking for anxiety.

"He could not stand up," Phillip said. "That's why I took him to the emergency room."

While Mel was being treated for symptoms of an overdose at Rancho Springs Medical Center in Murrieta, Phillip said he called a friend to check on the welfare of Valerie and her male companion.

Phillip's fears were confirmed when the friend arrived at the Sabre Springs apartment on Evening Creek Dr., found an open door and called police. Officers discovered the bodies of both victims inside.

Detectives placed Mel Marabante under arrested at the hospital shortly thereafter. Officers served a search warrant on Phillip Marabante's home, seizing a handgun believed to be the murder weapon, muddy shoes, clothing, a computer, medication and a locked safe, according to the brother.

It didn't take long for news of the murders to reach Teresa Marabante, the accused gunman's ex-wife and mother of his three sons, ages 11, 13 and 17.

"This is not who he is. This is not what he's about," Teresa said from her Murrieta home. "I believe the (antidepressant) medication he was on numbed his emotions."

Teresa said she was "coping" with the shock of this tragedy and a range of other feelings, given the fact that Valerie Marabante, the female shooting victim, had an extramarital affair with her husband that broke up Teresa's marriage back in 2007.

2004 – Mel meets Valerie
Feb. 21, 2007 – Teresa files for divorce
Dec. 2, 2008 – Teresa & Mel divorce final
April 10, 2009 – Mel & Valerie married
Feb. 2, 2011 – Mel & Valerie separate
Feb. 3, 2011 – Valerie files for divorce
Feb. 13, 2011 – Mel moves out of apartment
Feb. 20, 2011 – Valerie & Bernabe murdered

Family members confirm Mel Marabante met then Valerie Sidlin in 2004 while they both were employed at the Cherry Hills Club retirement home in Sun City. Mel was married with children and in his mid-30s. Valerie was age 17.

"They met at Cherry Hills convalescent in Sun City in 2004," Mel's brother Phillip recalled. "She was a certified nursing assistant. He was a registered nurse and going through a difficult marriage at the time."

Phillip claimed his brother's relationship with Valerie did not turn romantic until 2005, after Valerie turned 18.

In his Feb. 12 goodbye letter to Valerie, Mel Marabante wrote in detail about their six-year relationship and meeting at Cherry Hills.

"You were 17 at the time but I thought you were older," he wrote. "You had told me later on that you had a crush on me. I was just laughing inside because I thought High School is such a confusing age."

Through an in-law, the Sidlin family declined to be interviewed.

Phillip Marabante admitted his brother had multiple affairs with his first wife, Teresa, but he said Mel's marriage to Valerie in 2009 changed his brother.

"He fooled around. He learned his lesson and he knows exactly what his ex-wife went through," Phillip said. "When he met Val he became completely honest and faithful to her. He never cheated or looked at another woman."

Mel Marabante worked on and off in recent years as a supervising nurse for the Department of Corrections and as a home-care nurse. Valerie Marabante and her deceased companion – Chula Vista resident Bernabe Villamar – both worked as nurses at the Donovan state prison in Otay Mesa.

Phillip said he is at a loss to explain the violent actions his brother is now accused of committing.

"I don't know if he planned it or maybe it was the (antidepressant) drug effects," Phillip said. "She didn't deserve to die and neither did the other guy. But (Mel) was entitled to honesty from her."

Mel Marabante is set to be arraigned on two counts of murder in downtown San Diego Superior Court on Thursday afternoon.

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